The history of Cappadocia began with the eruption of two volcanoes, Erciyes Dagi near Kayseri and Melendiz Dagi near Nigde. The eruptions spread a thick layer of hot volcanic ash over the region which solidified into a soft porous stone called tuff.
Over aeons of geological time, wind, water and sand erosion wore away portions of the tuff, carving it into elaborate and unearthly shapes. Boulders of hard stone, caught in the tuff and then exposed by erosion, protected the tuff directly beneath from further erosion. The result is a column or cone of tuff with a boulder perched on top, whimsically called a peribace; 'fairy chimney'. Entire valleys are filled with these weird formations. Early inhabitants of the region quickly discovered that tuff could be easily worked with primitive tools and sturdy dwellings could be cut from it with a minimum of fuss.
The Hittites (1800 to 1200 BC) were the first settlers of the region. After 1200 BC smaller kingdoms held power, followed by he Persians and then the Romans, who established the capital of Caesarea (today's Kayseri). During the Roman and Byzantine periods Cappadocia became a refuge for early Christians and from the 4th to 11th centuries AD Christianity flourished. Most churches, monasteries and under-ground cities date from this period. Later, under Seljuk and Ottoman rule, Christians were treated with tolerance.
Cappadocia progressively lost its importance in Anatolia. Its rich past was all but forgotten until a French priest rediscovered the rock-hewn churches in 1907. The tourist boom in the 1980s kick-started a new era, and now Cappadocia is one of Turkey's most famous and popular destinations.